Why Full-Frame???

May 20, 2013

By Chris Del Gaiso, Crestwood Store, Manager

There are new and exciting photo products announced every year, but recently an entirely new category emerged: the “affordable” full-frame DSLR. While most DSLRs use a smaller, “cropped” image sensor, both Nikon and Canon introduced cameras aimed at the enthusiast photographer, outfitted with professional-sized, “full-frame” image sensors. Yes, these new offerings produce impressive results, but should you upgrade to full-frame?

The term “Full Frame” refers to the size of the original, classic 35mm negative – 36mm x 24mm. This larger size allows for superior image quality. Professionals have used these huge, expensive cameras for years. While these have been engineered to meet the requirements of working pros, they do not take into account the needs of the rest of us. We want amazing image quality, portability, all at a reasonable price.  Behold the Nikon D600 and Canon 6D. Available for around $2k, these cameras offer some of the best quality EVER from a DSLR. Not too shabby…

What makes full frame worth it?  The short answer is... image quality. Yes, I understand this is subjective, and it always depends on your application. Nonetheless, full-frame cameras have some distinct advantages over their smaller cropped sensor siblings…

For one thing, in low light, you can keep shooting. Ask yourself what the highest ISO you are comfortable setting your camera at before your images are smattered with noise and lacking detail? Is it ISO 1600 or 3200 perhaps? Try ISO 25600, or 51200 on the latest full-frame offerings. You certainly don’t want to use these settings often, but they allow for amazing versatility in poor light. The image sensor is physically larger, as is each and every pixel, allowing it to soak up more light. You will find the resulting image captures more accurate color, more detail, and less noise.

Also, you can make ordinary portraits, look extraordinary. With a full-frame sensor, you have much more control over your depth of field. When combined with large aperture lenses, you can make busy backgrounds melt away, while leaving your intended subject razor sharp. Most photos benefit from the added depth, allowing you more creativity with your photography.

For landscape shooters, full fame sensors have their benefits as well. Yes, these cameras have high megapixels, but more importantly, they have a greater dynamic range (a measure of how much information is captured in the darkest and lightest parts of your image). Once again, each pixel can soak up more light, resulting in a greater amount of detail in the lightest and darkest areas of the image. This improvement can be multiplied by shooting in RAW format and using your favorite RAW converter to adjust your images. Using this technique, your captured images have a tremendous amount of latitude, leaving you confident you will get a great exposure, even if you didn’t get it perfect when you took the photo.

If you are ready to go full frame, make sure to take inventory of your lenses. Some lenses work with limited functionality and others will not mount at all. Make sure to call your neighborhood Creve Coeur Camera for all of the details. A full frame sensor does not necessarily benefit every photographer, but its flexibility in low light, surreal depth of field control, and amazing image quality make it wonderful choice for your next camera.